Many Questions Remained Unanswered on Final Day of AOL Hearing
It took two weeks, but the justices were finally able to get the answers they needed to make a decision.
The National Green Tribunal’s patience was repeatedly tested on the final day of the hearing over permissions granted for the Art of Living Foundations’s World Culture Festival, which will start this Friday.
Expected Number of People Down to 5 Lakh
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Foundation has been under fire for two weeks for clearing more than 1000 acres of land in the Yamuna river floodplain to make space for their event. The foundation originally reported that 35 lakh people would attend, but told the tribunal today that the number would likely be closer to 5 lakh.
Environmentalists say the festival will have devastating consequences for the fragile ecosystem of the Yamuna floodplain.
Initial Fine of Rs 5 Crore Slapped on AOL
In an order announced to a crowded room on Wednesday afternoon, the NGT ruled that the Art of Living would pay an initial fine of Rs 5 crore for damage caused to the floodplain, and fined the Delhi Development Authority Rs 5 lakh and the Delhi Pollution Control Board Rs 1 lakh for not fulfilling their duties.
Lawyers Didn’t Have All Answers at Hearing
Over the course of the hearing, the tribunal heard from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Art of Living Foundation, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Delhi Development Authority, the Delhi State, petitioners against the event and other branches of government. At the heart of the hearing, the tribunal needed to establish who was responsible for allowing the Art of Living event to go forward.
But it wasn’t always easy. Lawyers representing various ministries were not always on time and often they didn’t have answers to the questions raised by the tribunal bench.
At Hearing, Chief Justice Said Don’t Test My Patience
As lawyers representing the government stepped forward, it became evident that the Art of Living had not received permission from numerous key authorities, including the Ministry of Water Resources, Delhi Police and the Fire Department.
Lawyers failed to answer questions raised by the tribunal bench, such as, where people attending the event would get their water from, or whether permissions had been granted for the event. Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar warned them not to test his patience and forced them to provide necessary documents.
After a long deliberation, the justices decided that the World Culture Festival will take place this weekend, but with conditions.
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